A gray whale off of the Newport Harbor in Southern California was found entangled in a pink small-mesh gillnet of unknown origin, according to a statement by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Responders from the Orange County Large Whale Entanglement Response Team and the Pacific Marine Mammal Center assisted Monday in the rescue effort.
NOAA says the juvenile gray whale was first reported Monday around 10:30 a.m. local time by paddle boarders off of Crystal Cove and they say that initial report was critical to establishing the type of entanglement and location of the whale for an expedited response.
The Newport Coastal Adventure was contacted by NOAA to help find, standby and document the whale until rescue teams arrived around 2 p.m., NOAA says.
Local reports say that rescuers made several cuts to the net and the 30-foot whale eventually swam away at which time the teams suspended their effort. Officials asked the public to be on the lookout Tuesday for the whale.
The NOAA statement mentions: “Just before sunset the team made a cut that removed a significant portion of the gear. Unfortunately, due to the severe nature of the entanglement and the challenging behavior of the whale, the team was unable to remove all of the netting.”
NOAA says prognosis for this whale’s survival is unknown.
The Los Angeles Times cites NOAA data that reports of entangled whales are on the rise. NOAA says that in 2016, 71 cases were reported off Washington, Oregon and California.
NOAA encourages the public to report any sighting of an entangled whale by dialing the NOAA hotline at 1-877-SOS-WHALe or notify the U.S. Coast Guard by boat on channel 16.
Here’s some footage of the gray whale seen in Newport Harbor:
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